Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Spring 2017 Newsletter


We’re hard at work on the annual plant sale, Saturday, July 2. Once again Svetlana and Kem Phillips have a new and wonderful plant surprise-chestnut trees. This is an experimental venture sparked by Wendy Regier who gave them chestnuts to see what they could do with them. They are in the Phillip’s garden and will be transplanted closer to the sale.

Informally known as the “Restoration” chestnut, these trees have enough of the Chinese chestnut’s natural blight resistance to have a shot at surviving. The tree looks very similar to the American chestnut. We will provide an opportunity to pre buy closer to the sale.

Once again there will be patio tomatoes-Brandywine, Roma and Sweet Cherry.  It wouldn’t be a plant sale without hosta. Special thanks to the Tings and Moonlite Meadows Farms for the absolutely best compost. A list of what we will be offering will soon appear at the CHS blog. If you have plants you would like to donate for the sale, please contact us at the numbers above. We can provide soil and pots, and with advanced notice, some manpower.

The Museum is now open Sundays from 2-4 through Columbus weekend . Visits can be arranged at other times by contacting CHS. As you drive by, you’ll notice that work is underway on the door of the Museum. Carl Liener has been lending his considerable talents to repair the transom over the door and is redoing signage. Dave Stern is heading up the installation of the new doors, in spite of a skiing injury.

The layout of both of the town’s villages were based on people walking and traveling by horse. As we speed
Proctorsville Quarry
by in our cars, we often miss the beauty and interesting aspects. This year, CHS is offering a series of walking tours to point out interesting aspects of the villages and the town. The first walk will be to the Proctorsville Quarry hopefully in July. August will include a walking tour of  Cavendish Village, while the annual Phineas Gage Walk-N-Talk will be Sept. 10. Columbus weekend, Oct. 8, CHS will host the Proctorsville ghost walk.

This summer is going to involve a lot of planning including preparing for the 100th anniversary of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s birth in 2018 as well as continuing restoration of both the Museum and Stone Church. Have some time? We have plenty of jobs for volunteers.


Carmine at the book signing of his autobiography
At CHS’s Annual Meeting in March, it was agreed that the most fitting tribute for Carmine Guica, one of the founders of CHS and an avid historian, was to rename the Young Historians program in his honor and work to expand programs. The objective of the CCYHP (Carmine Guica Young Historians Program)  is to offer programs at Cavendish Town Elementary School (CTES), Green Mountain Union High School and other regional schools so that students will not only know Cavendish’s history but also develop a sense of stewardship and responsibility for it.

Specific learning objectives include:

6th graders at the old Fitton Mill.
• 1st Peoples: There is strong archeological evidence that Cavendish was occupied over 11,000 years ago, including the possibility of an archaic Indian village 5,000-7,000 years ago.

•  Culture-People have come to Cavendish from all over the world including: Africa; Austria; Belgium; Bulgaria; Canada; China; Czechoslovakia; Denmark; El Salvador; England; Finland; France; Germany; Greece; Holland; Hungary; India; Ireland; Italy; Japan; Korea; Mexican; Native American; Norway; Philippines; Poland; Portugal; Rumania; Russia; Scotland; Spain; Sweden; Switzerland; Turkish; Ukraine; Yugoslavia; Wales. Special programs, such as St. Patrick’s Day, and Dias de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) are ways to teach students about other cultures and the influence they’ve had on Cavendish history

• Civics/Stewardship Students are involved in a number of civic projects including RiverSweep, where they learn the role the Black River played in forming the town and well as clean a beach that dates back to the mid 1850s. Other projects include cleaning gravestones; placing flags on veterans’ graves; making poppies for Memorial Day. As a result of the CHS programs, Cavendish has a lower incidence of youth vandalism.

• Cavendish’s Role in World Affairs: While many know of Phineas Gage and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, fewer are aware of Nettie Stevens who was born in Cavendish and went on to do the research crucial in determining that an organism's sex was dictated by its chromosomes rather than environmental or other factors. Cavendish played an interesting role in the abolitionist era, as well as the Revolutionary War.

  Agricultural to Industrial to Digital: With the passing centuries, Cavendish has gone from an agrarian culture, with small businesses to support them, to the industrial age with the development of the woolen mills and other manufacturing companies (e.g. cheese, chair, potato starch factories) to digital with its proliferation of small home based businesses and telecommuters. Through various programs and books, we show them what was as well as opportunities for the future.


Part I of the Cavendish Woolen Mills timeline appeared in the Scribbler II Summer 2016, while Part II is in the Winter 2017 edition. Both newsletters are available on-line at the CHS blog. See header for link. This issue covers 1938 to present day.

1938: On December 31, Proctorsville village purchased the Black River Mill building for $1,000 plus$800 back taxes. The equipment was auctioned off.

• Late 1937 and 1938 were bad times for the woolen mills. Many mills in Ludlow were closed for months at a time and Gay Brothers for shorter periods. When the mills did get orders, they asked the workers to take heavy cuts in their wages. They were competing with cheaper labor in the south. The workers didn’t necessarily agree instead blaming troubles with the union and strikes as the cause for the downfall of the Black Bear Woolen Mill. Workers at Gay Brothers said they would accept cuts in pay if the mill would become a “closed shop.”

1939: The Gay Brothers business had picked up sufficiently that they purchased the VerdMont Mill on Main St. Ludlow and renamed it Gaymont. The Vermont Tribune reported, The woolen mill industry in the Black River Valley is running at capacity speed with two of the mills on a 24 hour basis, ...Gaymont Mill is now equipped with modern machines with three shifts. Gay Brothers has 262 workers at present.
1941: Gay Brothers signed a union contract Local 261 of the Textile Workers Union of America.

• Proctor Reel and Shook company moved from New Jersey to the former location of the Black Bear Mill.

1942: The Town Report states that Gay Brothers are..”the chief war industry of our town...where 300 people work producing 30,000 yards of woolen blankets, Navy uniform cloth and Khaki flannels each week for the United States Government...In addition to the war materials produce, the plant flies the Minute Man Flag...Thirty-seven of the works are serving in the Armed Forces.” Because of the high demand, all of the high school students over 16 were asked to work at the mill whenever possible and many of the remaining men in town would work second or third shift in addition to their regular jobs. The mills flourished with contracts for Navy overcoats, khaki material and blankets, 200,000 of which went to ships which transported troops. One very famous ship, the Queen Mary, received some 10,000 of the mill’s blankets as she had been converted into a fast troop carrier ferrying the Atlantic. Blankets also went to war workers, the Maritime Commission, and to other organizations under the “Lend-Lease” Program. Some blankets and uniform cloth even went to the Russians.

1948: Gay Brothers agreed with the union on a contract giving the workers a .15¢ an hour increase, a minimum wage of $1.05 an hour, six paid holidays and hospital benefits. There was a no-strike clause and no pension plan. Reports appear in the Rutland Herald that the Gay Brothers Mill is to be sold to Ames Worsted Company of Lowell, Ma. This was not true.

Post WWII (1946-1950): Business was very poor for mills all over New England in the late 1940s.Moreover, not all the veterans were content to return to the mills. Some had found the mills to be noisy and dirty; others disliked being kept inside all day, preferring outside work instead.

1950: Gaymont Mills in Ludlow, owned by the Gay Brothers, is sold to ten Ludlow businessmen, who sell the building to General Electric in 1951.

• Rutland Railroad declares bankruptcy further reducing passenger service in town.

1951: The Gay Brothers sell the mill to F.C. Hyuck and Sons, who rename it Kenwood Mills. The reasons given for the closure included; the rising price of wool, the use of synthetic fabrics and the concentration of the woolen business into a few large corporations. Many textile mills had left New England and moved South where there was cheaper labor. Though not mentioned by the Gays, others believe that “”trouble with the unions” was a contributing factor.

• General Electric opens in Ludlow in the Gaymont Mill building. Offering good benefits and chances for advancement, many former Gay Brothers employees go to work for GE.

1955: Kenwood Mills made blankets and employed 270 people on two shifts.

1956: Proctor Reel relocates to Massachusetts. The building is purchased by Acousti Phase.

1957: Kenwood Mills closes. Cavendish is no longer a mill town.

1962 Mack Molding purchases the Gay/Kenwood Mills building and continues to use it for injection plastic moldings.

1982: Acousti Phase burns leaving considerable devastation.

1996-1998: Proctorsville revitalizing projects undertaken. With matching funds and in-kind matches provided by the Town and the private sector, the Town was able to change the vacant Proctorsville mill site into a handsome, well-designed village green with recreational space. Affordable housing is strategically placed adjacent to the green with the move of the historic Freeman House from next to the Cavendish Pointe Hotel to the Green in 1997.
2017: Murdock’s on the Green pub opens in one of the former Proctorsville Mill buildings. The building adjacent to Murdock’s has been sold and plans are for a brewery and a tasting room/pub.


If you have not joined the Cavendish Historical Society, need to renew your membership, and/or would like to be a volunteer, please complete the form below and sending a check, payable to CHS, to CHS, PO Box 472, Cavendish, VT 05142. All contributions are tax deductible.

Name: _______________________________________

Address: _______________________________________________

Phone Number: _____________________    E-Mail: ____________________________
Membership Level
__ Individual Member $10  ___ Senior Member 65+ $5  ___ Sustaining Member $500
__ Household Member $15  ___ Contributing Member $250                            

___ I would be interested in serving, as a volunteer .I would be interested in serving on the following committee(s):__ Program Planning  __ Fundraising    __ Building (Museum)
__Archives                       _ Budget           ­­–– Cemetery    __ Hands on History

Donations are always welcome and can be designated as follows:
__ For general purposes                   __ Educational Programs           __Publications
__ Archeological Activities                _ Museum & Archival             __ Special Events
__ Rankin Fund                             __  Williams Fund                             __ Solzhenitsyn Project
__ Other (please specify)                   __ Cemetery Restoration        __ Preservation Projects

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